A new grant program, with a total of $175,000 in available funds, has been established to promote Illinois farmers markets and increase demand for fresh-grown produce from the Prairie State.
The Illinois Farmers Market Advertising Grant Program will provide farmers markets up to $7,500 to help with advertising and promotional expenses during the 2008 season.
The funds were awarded to the Illinois Department of Agriculture through the federal specialty crop program and will be distributed as part of the governor's Opportunity Returns economic development strategy.
More than 220 farmers markets currently operate throughout the state, up from 97 in 1999. More than 117,000 acres of Illinois farmland is devoted to growing specialty crops, producing nearly $137 million in sales, according to a 2003 Illinois Specialty Crop Survey. Illinois is the nation's largest producer of pumpkins and ranks among the top 10 states in the production of asparagus, cauliflower, fresh cut herbs, peas, lima beans and mustard greens.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture will accept applications for the funds through Nov. 7. Application forms can be obtained on the department's Web site at www.agr.state.il.us or by calling Kim Janssen at (217) 785-5848. Grants will be awarded by Feb. 1, 2008.